Andrew Cuomo has been holding back New York’s vaccination effort

Governor Cuomo’s mistaken call on nursing homes last spring showed bad policy can cost lives. New York’s vaccine rollout risks endangering yet more lives (

If there was a masterclass on exemplifying competent, adaptive leadership, New York would not be qualified to teach it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tragic call on nursing homes last spring showcased how public policy mistakes can cost lives. Yet, the way New York’s coronavirus vaccine rollout is being managed has risked endangering even more lives.

The rollout has been a two-step of incompetence, resulting in a slow-motion dispersal of vaccinations in New York City. Officially, Cuomo’s administration is in charge. The New York State Department of Health released an operational plan for vaccinations in October. The department also issued guidance for facilities and providers detailing who could be vaccinated in each of the first five weeks.

As mayor, Bill de Blasio is responsible for managing the city, though, and de Blasio ended 2020 poorly where COVID-19 is concerned. In late December, the mayor announced that vaccination would initially “focus on the 27 neighborhoods that have borne the brunt of COVID,” saying, “That’s just a matter of fairness.”

The Orthodox Jewish daily newspaper Hamodia asked the mayor “why neighborhoods like Boro Park, Williamsburg, Midwood and Gravesend were not on the hardest-hit list.” Those first three neighborhoods, known for their Orthodox populations, received intensely negative attention from elected officials and news media last year in relation to the virus.

With a straight face, de Blasio explained the list was created using data from the spring. Neither the mayor’s office nor NYC Health responded to a request for comment, but de Blasio’s citing outdated statistics make no sense because NYC Health regularly updates COVID-19 data. Beyond that, he also didn’t need to stir the hornet’s nest.

Americans Against Antisemitism founder Dov Hikind called de Blasio’s remarks “malicious.” Meanwhile, Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, told me, “Any other community hard hit by this horrible disease has been treated as victims in need of immediate help, but Jews are treated as super spreaders.”

New York State Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, who represents Boro Park and Midwood, told me, “I have been trying to wrap my head around the logic. All I have heard from the executive branch over the last 10 months is how my community needs to be locked down because we are one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in New York.”

He went on, “But now, when it comes to vaccine distribution, we are not even in the 27 hardest-hit communities? How is that possible? It was either a lie then, or, when it comes to vaccine distribution, you no longer care about my community. Either way, it is hypocritical and appalling.”

Eichenstein believes “vaccines should go first to the most vulnerable, regardless of what neighborhood they live in.” A spokeswoman for state Sen. Simcha Felder, who also represents Boro Park and Midwood, told me, “The senator wrote to [Health] Commissioner Zucker [in the last week of December] urging that all seniors be included in the first distribution.”

Those are worthwhile, common sense suggestions. Cuomo hasn’t seemed interested, though.

Cuomo has, according to the New York Times, “rejected any notion that his administration was at fault for not distributing more vaccines, asserting that the problem was a local issue, and urging Mr. de Blasio and other leaders who oversee public hospital systems to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their performance.” Of course, Cuomo takes personal responsibility for nothing while complicating others’ efforts to accelerate vaccinations.

Cuomo bullies the people he should be leading. He has threatened $1 million fines for providers who “disregard prioritization” when vaccinating. Cuomo also announced fines of up to $100,000 for hospitals that don’t use allotted vaccines within a week. De Blasio isn’t known for his leadership, but even he recognized that Cuomo’s punishment-only strategy was self-defeating.

Cuomo could have saved more lives by loosening the state’s rigid restrictions, but he has dragged his feet. The governor wants all front-line healthcare workers vaccinated. However, “around 30% of healthcare workers in New York City have resisted getting vaccinated.” It’s time to move on, as the mayor has urged.

The next priority group includes those 75 and older, who are statistically most vulnerable, along with first responders. Those New Yorkers need vaccines too, and the sooner the better, as infections and fatalities remain high. When the alternative is vaccines being scandalously tossed out or “flushed down the toilet,” it’s an easy policy call.

On Friday, Mayor de Blasio tweeted, “New York City has heard enough. We will begin administering shots to City Workers and the elderly in [Phase] B starting on Monday,” after Cuomo said that “it’s going to take 14 weeks” to vaccinate those who are 75 and older.

Every life lost to COVID-19 is a cause for mourning, but losing more New Yorkers because the governor has sown confusion and wrapped the vaccination process in red tape is a travesty.

This article appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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